Giving Support Grief/Dispair

Grieving is like a Roller Coaster in the Fog


WSN-MO: The Perfect Catch 

It’s Thursday.  That means its time for WSN-MO Dating and Relationship Coach, Christine Baumgartner.  This week, Christine writes WSN-MO members an open letter. 

Grieving Feels like a Roller Coaster in the Fog

I’m grateful to be writing to widowers with my thoughts on grieving and on dating after loss. My experience is personal (I was widowed six years ago) and professional (my coaching practice includes widows and widowers).

I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for the pain, confusion, and hopelessness that came with being a widow. I was already an experienced dating and relationship coach when Tony died. I knew lots about how to help others (and myself) with questions about dating, long-term relationships, and spouses. But in 2012, I found out I knew very little about widowhood.

Since then, I’ve met many fellow travelers on my journey. And I’ve learned a lot. Personally (through a variety of widow groups) and professionally through my coaching practice.

From that terrible moment when I found Tony dead on the floor, my life started feeling like I was on a roller coaster in the fog.

This roller coaster had many unexpected ups and downs. And because of the “fog” I couldn’t see the ups and downs until they were right on top of me. And then, of course, I’d never be prepared for them (I imagine many of you can relate to this whether your loss was sudden or after a long illness).

At 18 months, I started to see more clearly (like watching a movie) the ways I’d maneuvered through that first year on the roller coaster.

I could see how, on that first day, part of my brain had clamped shut with strong and large padlocks. But even then, I “knew” that someday I would need to unlock those locks. I trusted that I would know when to do this (and it wouldn’t be soon).

What I now know is – I locked down the part of the brain that wasn’t ready yet to process the horrible trauma around Tony’s death. 

Because of the lock-down, I was able to slog through the necessary papers, taxes, legal stuff, and other things. The lock-down gave me more access to the part of my brain that needed to stay very conscious of how much I could actually do every day and how much I couldn’t.   

However, the lock-down also blocked the good things, like the sound and sight of my husband. Not that I didn’t realize he was dead. And I didn’t actually expect to see or hear him in person. What I was missing (and this truly surprised me) was I couldn’t replay any of our conversations in my head. 

I couldn’t even imagine the scene I experienced so many times of him walking in the door after he came home from work. My memories of his voice and his face were locked up in that same place.  

I just had no idea how exhausting grieving could be. To me, it felt like running a marathon with a huge, wet, wool blanket on while carrying bags of bricks. Therapy, family, and friends (yes, it’s taken a village of support) have been a tremendous help. I’ve come a long way in my six years of widowhood. And I’m looking forward to being a support person through your journey.  

Christine Baumgartner

Dating and Relationship Coach

The Perfect Catch


1. The services offered by Christine, herself a widow, does not include “dating or matchmaking services.”

2. Christine will NEVER have direct access to WSN-MO’s Facebook page. All postings will be facilitated through WSN-MO.

3. WSN-MO members can ask questions of Christine (even anonymously via private message to me) on our Facebook page which I will forward to her. You can also send questions to me at Following, I will then post her responses.

4. WSN-MO members who wish to contact Christine directly are always free to do so c/o her website

Look for Christine’s advice every Thursday. 

Dating/Relationships Mental/Emotional Health

How to get over a breakup


Navigating Painful Breakups without losing yourself

You found him! You’re so happy! Everything in life feels brighter and better.  

You talk for hours. There’s a huge connection and chemistry between you. You feel like a teenager again! You start to think there might be a future with this relationship.

And then… it ends.

This article isn’t about why the relationship ended. Instead, let’s talk about how to get through the loss of breaking up without losing yourself.

*A side note: This article is written from a woman’s perspective (because I’m a woman and it was easier that way). I know men can have the same experience and I hope my suggestions are helpful for you as well.

Surviving the breakup

After the breakup, your task becomes how to live with that unbearable ache for him in your mind, bod, and soul. You miss his voice, his touch, his presence. Sometimes the pain becomes so large you wonder if you’ll get through the next hour.

It doesn’t matter whether you ended the relationship, or he did. Either way, it’s tempting to reach out to him. You want him back in your life. You want things to go back to how they were (especially the good times). You want to text. You want to call.

He’s on your mind all day, distracting you. You cry at the drop of a hat. Your energy is low. It feels unending.

Using imagery

Because I’m a visual person, I use images to help manage big life challenges and emotions. For example, I often use the image of ocean waves to represent my overwhelming feelings.  

I have found that – just like the ocean – intense feelings come in like powerful waves, knocking me off my feet and tumbling me over and over with no air to breathe. With huge feelings (just like the waves), I feel like I can’t breathe, that I’m drowning, and I’ll never surface again.

And then just like the ocean, the wave finally goes back out, and I can breathe again, stop crying, and maybe even muster a smile.

A lesson from widowhood

My widowhood journey has taught me that the horrible ache of loss and sadness eventually becomes “less awful,” a bit at a time.  

In the meantime, the best thing for me to do is to feel all my feelings when they show up (even though that’s the last thing I want to do).

Then, as time goes on (days/weeks/months), I start to notice moments when I actually feel better. Even if the good feeling is only one or two minutes out of 60 minutes, I consider that a win because those good moments will eventually come more often and last longer. 

Finding the teenager within

Another image that helps me… I picture the hurt, sad, mad, disappointed part of me as a crazed teenager. I remember how passionately I felt things as a teen. 

My feelings of wanting a life situation to go back to what it was (when I know it can’t or shouldn’t) belong to the teenager – and they’re very real feelings inside of me (even though in reality they are unreasonable and irrational).

It helps me to realize that idea of taking immediate action belongs to a teenager. And that it’s time to put my adult head in charge instead of my teenage heart – for that’s what keeps me safe from re-entering a situation or relationship that is wrong for me.

Taking this image a step further, I think about the inner teenager and my car. It’s dangerous to have a crazed teenager in the driver’s seat (because that’s definitely how it feels inside me). She could crush me into a wall!

So my next visualization is to gently put her in the backseat and give her things to soothe her. I promise not to give her a hard time for her feelings. I give her permission to have all the feelings she wants for as long as she needs to. I promise to help her heal her broken heart.

I give her things she likes: a funny movie, time in the spa, a friend’s shoulders to cry on, comfort foods, exercise, permission to cry at any moment, and anything (sentimental commercials, Hallmark movies).

Then I put my adult self in the driver’s seat so I can navigate through my day. My adult self knows I need to eat and sleep. She knows I need to get work done. She knows how to prioritize tasks to best use my energy. And she knows to keep an eye on my teenage self and give her attention when she needs it.

Have you used images like these (or something else) to get through a hard breakup? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email.

Children Dating/Relationships

Dear Abby Style Article #1


PUBLISEHD 3-19-20 

WSN-MO: The Perfect Catch

A few minutes with Dating and Relationship Coach, Christine Baumgartner

Just about every day, I’m in communication with widowers. 

Not only is it what I do as a dating and relationship coach, it also comes from being involved in several widow Facebook groups. I’m so grateful for all these connections, for it has helped my own healing process. 

The many “gems” I’ve collected along the way have led me to think an occasional “Dear Abby” style article might be in order. So, I’m giving it a try. Below you’ll find three great questions I received, followed by my thoughts. 

Question: My wife passed almost two years ago, and I’m dating a woman who is also widowed. My wife had tons of new clothes, shoes, jewelry, perfume, etc. Is it tacky to give some items to my new friend? Everything is brand new, still boxed as my wife bought it – designer pocketbooks and all. Or should I ask her if she’d feel creepy taking stuff?

Answer: Such a great question… thanks for asking. Here’s my suggestion. You could ask the new lady in your life if she’s interested in any of your late wife’s clothes. Let her make the decision. There’s no “right” or “wrong” here; I’ve seen it go both ways.

  • I know a few couples (in the same circumstances – both widowed) who are happily wearing the late spouse’s clothes.
  • I also know a couple where the new partner thought it would be too creepy to wear the clothes of the late spouse. And a widower who thought it would be too startling and sad to see another person wearing his dead wife’s things.

As a side note – if your new lady isn’t interested in your late wife’s clothes, then make sure you ask your family members if they would like any of her clothes. Sometimes family members want something just as a memory and not to actually wear. So ask everyone, even if they’re not the right size.  

Question:  I’m 60 years old and was married for 36 years. In 2018, my wife passed away after a 3.5 year battle with inflammatory breast cancer. I grieved the entire 3.5 years of her illness, knowing I was going to lose her. My 33-year-old daughter, who lives with me, was infuriated when I started dating seven months after my wife passed. I’ve been dating a wonderful lady for six months now, and we’re falling in love. We have no plans for marriage at this time. My daughter has all the concerns and terrible anger I’ve read about. I’ve tried to reassure her that I’ll always love her, and we can still have a close relationship. I don’t think she will ever accept the new lady in my life. She has ruined relationships with my brother and his wife and my sister over this. They have also tried to let her know that I’m moving forward and will always love her. My 25-year-old son is happy for me. This has created a huge gap between him and his sister. She’s been to grief counseling only once. I’ve offered to go with her but never get an answer. 

Answer: This is a challenging situation. I’ll give you a few ideas, and I trust you’ll find what works for you.

It’s important to keep living your life amidst your daughter’s upset. It’s not your job (really) to make her happy every minute of every day – this may be a hard belief to carry when it involves a daughter you care about. However, she sounds pretty unreasonable. When someone has an attitude like this, it’s very difficult to make them happy. 

If things become unbearable, a time may come when you need to draw a line in the sand. Have a trusted friend or therapist help you come up with some well-thought-out boundaries. This isn’t an easy task, especially when the boundary is something like “she needs to treat you (and the lady in your life) courteously and with respect or she needs to move out (and give her a deadline).” With any boundary, make sure you’re really ready. Because, for it to work, you’ll truly have to “stick to your guns” and not back down. 

A few caveats:

  • I don’t know the circumstances behind your 33-year-old daughter needing to live with you. If it’s a physical or emotional reason (meaning she needs constant supervision and care, then you might need to eventually consider a facility where she could be cared for. 
  • If she’s capable of living on her own but has a financial issue (and she’s physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of supporting herself), then a boundary might just be the thing she needs to get her life together. It could be that part of the reason she’s mad is she feels threatened that her living situation might change. 
  • Once our children become adults and are capable of taking care of themselves, then it’s up to us parents to move on with our lives. We need to become examples of people who do good self-care, and being in a healthy, loving relationship is one of the ways we do this. 

Question: My wife of 10 years recently passed away. I went straight to anger mode, and I’ve been there ever since. Why do scumbags get to live, and my sweet wife was take? She was one of the greatest people on this earth? I’m functioning at work and in everyday life but am also pissed off all the time.

Answer: Your feelings of anger are so normal. And you’re right – it makes no sense that wonderful people die and terrible people get to live. Many widowed people feel this way (I certainly did). I appreciate you’re still being a responsible person and going to work. At the same time, I know how debilitating it is to be angry all the time. Here’s what I’ve seen work for others and myself:

  • Therapy. A skilled and professional therapist can help you work through your feelings of anger.
  • Regular exercise. I realize this doesn’t change any of the circumstances. I do know it’s a great way to dissipate and lower the energy behind your anger and help it not feel as consuming—things like walking, running, bicycling, or lifting weights at the gym. I’ve also known people who took up martial arts because, not only did they get to expend energy, it also gave them focused targets on which to aim their anger.
  • Join a support group. This is one thing that helped me. I found widow groups (both online and through meetup). When you share your anger issues with the group, you’ll probably find out that many of them share your same feelings. Some of the members may have insights for you. 
  • Recommended reading. Why Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner, this book helped me tremendously with my anger. It’s been helpful for many of my clients as well.

In closing…

Have you had experiences like these? If so, how did you handle them? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And as always, please write to me with your questions and concerns. I’m happy to answer them.


1. The services offered by Christine, herself a widow, does not include “dating or matchmaking services.”

2. WSN-MO remains a private “Men Only” page. As such, Christine does not have direct access to WSN-MO’s Facebook page. All postings are facilitated through WSN-MO.

3. WSN-MO members can ask questions of Christine (even anonymously via private message to me) Just send your questions to me at Following, I will then post her responses.

4. WSN-MO members who wish to contact Christine directly are encouraged to do so c/o her website

Look for Christine’s advice every other Thursday.

NOTICE: Listen to Christine’s advice on Widower’s Journey Podcast, Episode #2.


Dating/Relationships Love Languages Moving Forward

Love Languages


WSN-MO: The Perfect Catch

A few minutes with Dating and Relationship Coach, Christine Baumgartner

Several years after Tony’s death – as the fog of widowhood started lifting – I found myself wondering, “what’s next.” I wanted to be open to inspiration and possibilities. I knew they were out there somewhere if I could just learn how to recognize them.

Little by little, I gathered little gems, most of them in my everyday life. These lifted my spirits and gave me hope. I made a practice of watching for them. The story below is an example of this.


I love to shop in used bookstores. And that’s where this story takes place – in a used bookstore in Everett, Washington (just north of Seattle).

As I’m making my way to checkout with my great finds, I notice an older gentleman approaching the counter just ahead of me. In a tentative manner (almost apologetic – he looks out of his comfort zone) the gentleman asks the staff person if they have “that book about the five love languages.” My ears perk up; this is a favorite topic (and book) of mine.

The staff person says yes, and that she’ll get it for him right away.

After she disappears into the stacks, I turn to the man and say, “Good choice. Are you buying the book because of someone?”

With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, he tells me it’s for a lady friend who recommended he read it. He gently taps my arm as he answers.

“You’re going to get so much benefit from this book,” I say. “Do you know anything about it?”

“No, but that’s not a problem,” he says, once again tapping my arm. “I’m someone who likes to keep learning, and I know it will make her happy that I’m buying it.”

Then he abruptly becomes self-conscious and says, “So sorry; I keep touching you. I’ve been told I do that too much.”

“I’m completely okay with it,” I tell him. “As a matter of fact, you might learn, as you read the book, your love language is physical touch.”

He looks relieved and also intrigued. I go on to tell him that when he and his lady friend take the love language test, it’s best to take them separately. Then afterward, it’s fun to discuss each other’s results together.

By now, the staff person is back, book in hand. The man takes it from her and shows it to me, asking, “Is this the right one?” I nod.

As the cashier rings up his book, he finds that not only is it less expensive because it’s used, it’s also on sale. He’s ecstatic.

With his purchase proudly in hand, he turns and thanks me. I tell him that my job involves talking to people about their relationships, which is why I’m so clear about the importance of this book, to both individuals and couples.

He says, “I could tell you knew stuff.”

As I pay for my books, he asks, “Guess how old I am?”

I tell him I have no idea.

“I’m 85,” he says. Then to my surprise, he does a high karate kick. “There’s still fire in me!” are his parting words.

So inspiring – at 85, he’s decided to learn about love languages. And he’s going out of his comfort zone in an attempt to connect with his lady friend.

Learning your own love language and that of your partner is a tool I use to help people work on relationship problems. My clients are often surprised to hear how differently people can feel loved and cared about, depending on what their “love language” is.

I consistently recommend the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman (the same book my elderly friend bought). It talks about five ways people typically feel loved and will help you learn your language and your partner’s (you can also take the love language quiz online). Chapman lists the five love languages as:

1. Acts of service – doing something for the other person.

2. Quality time – spending time with the other person.

3. Words of affirmation – giving compliments and other affirming verbal messages.

4. Gifts – giving and receiving of gifts.

5. Physical touch – regular physical touching.

Even if you like all five of these, there’s usually one you prefer. If you assume your partner will come in on the same “love language” wavelength as yours, things may not work very well. You can do your “language” with them all you want, but the other person will still feel lacking if it’s not the language that makes them feel loved and cared about.

So, what is your love language? I’d love to hear about any challenges and successes you’ve had with it in your personal and romantic life. Send me an email and let me know!

And by the way, my love language is words of affirmation, so I love compliments.

Coach Christine


1. The services offered by Christine, herself a widow, does not include “dating or matchmaking services.”

2. WSN-MO remains a private “Men Only” page. As such, Christine does not have direct access to WSN-MO’s Facebook page. All postings are facilitated through WSN-MO.

3. WSN-MO members can ask questions of Christine (even anonymously via private message to me) on our Facebook page, which I will then forward to her. You can also send questions to me at Following, I will then post her responses.

4. WSN-MO members who wish to contact Christine directly are encouraged to do so c/o her website

Look for Christine’s advice every other Thursday.

NOTICE: Listen to Christine’s advice on Widower’s Journey Podcast, Episode #2.


Children Family Grief/Dispair Holidays Loneliness

Dealing with the feelings that come up around the holidays


All those feelings that come up around the holidays

As the holidays approach, I start hearing from folks in my widowhood community. They talk about the variety of feelings the season is bringing up for them.

A widower, with sadness and confusion in his voice, tells me that the holidays were always “her thing”. She was the one who would:

  • Pick out the perfect Christmas tree.
  • Put out the beautiful decorations.
  • Bake the holiday cookies.
  • Wrap the gifts.
  • Take the kids caroling.

A grieving widow tells me that he was the one who would:

  • Get the decorations out of the garage and attic.
  • Lead the prayers and blessings.
  • Light the Hanukkah candles.
  • Prepare the traditional food alongside her.
  • Organize gift exchanges.

For some people, the coming season will be one of the many “firsts” in their widowhood. The pain is very fresh. For others, this is their second or third time around, and they’re wondering why they still feel so lost and numb and raw.

They say – what if the season overwhelms me with sadness? Will I even be able to function? How will that be for our kids? 

Here are some thoughts about this:

  • Your feelings are very real. You might be tempted to control/hide them. However, this can actually make the holidays harder for both you and your kids.
  • It’s important for everyone in the family (including you) to talk about how they’re feeling about the person who is gone (doing this whenever you feel it is best) and how your feelings are affected by that person not being here for the holidays. 
  • This may feel impossible. Or you may be worried that letting out just one little feeling will cause you to completely go to pieces. Very normal – pay attention to this. Talk to a trusted friend, a spiritual mentor, a therapist. Sharing your raw feelings with them first will reduce the enormous pressure inside you. It will also help the feelings be less overwhelming when you talk with your children. 
  • An important thing to remember – when you talk about your feelings with your kids, it gives your kids permission to talk about theirs. 

Widows and widowers ask me – how about the traditions we’ve always done with the kids? Should I do things as we always did them? Is it bad to not do it for the kids? Here are a few things I’ve seen:

  • Some people have a family meeting to ask the kids how they feel about things like decorations, gift giving, and food. The kid’s responses help guide the holiday process.
  • Some families find it cathartic to keep their traditions going. They talk and cry their way through all the memories that come up.
  • Other folks find that’s just too hard, and they do something completely different. (I’ll be exploring this idea in next week’s blog.)

I know firsthand how the holidays can be filled with huge feelings. The best advice I received as a new widow was to “just feel what I feel when I feel it”. 

And what I found was – just like the ocean – my feelings would wash over me. And just like a huge wave, it could feel overwhelming, sometimes like I couldn’t breathe, like I was drowning, and that it would never stop. 

And then just like the ocean, the wave would go out and I could breathe again, stop crying, and even muster a smile. 

I’m interested in hearing about your experiences as you go through the holidays this year. Send me an email.

Dating/Relationships Giving Support Grief/Dispair



Are you getting ready to think about dating? Alternatively, maybe you’ve already put your toe in the water?

Many widowers feel quite divided at this point – between the life they had with their late spouse and the new life they’re moving toward now.

I believe it’s possible to honor your late spouse and a new love at the same time. Let’s take a look at each one of these.

How to honor the memory of your late wife

There’s a good chance that you haven’t gone through her personal items yet. For some of you, the house may look exactly as it was on the day she died. My recommendations:

  • Go through the personal items slowly. Clothing, jewelry, toiletries, medications, letters, cards, photographs, etc.
  • Take as much time as you need. It may be harder than you think to do this; you may experience lots of emotions. Sad and angry all mixed up with fond memories. It can be quite a rollercoaster.
  • For some widowers, the sorting process is easier if you include others (close friends, family, or even a professional organizer). Moreover, don’t forget that other people may appreciate receiving some of her treasures. 
  • Giving her things to a charity is also a wonderful gift to others and honors your wife’s memory. 

You might be wondering what’s appropriate to leave in the house as you enter this new chapter of your life. My recommendations:

  • It’s fine to keep a few pictures that include your wife and your children on display. This is important for your children and an honor to your marriage. I suggest displaying them in your living areas and not in your bedroom. 
  • Keeping a few precious items in a drawer or a special box is also fine. 
  • If you have a special container of her ashes, displaying this in a meaningful place is just fine. It’s very important not to create a shrine though.

How to honor a new love in your life

You will always miss your wife. She may have been your soulmate. Your best friend. Your confidant. Be aware that it’s common for widowers to feel some guilt when they begin dating. You took vows to love, cherish and be faithful to her forever and you haven’t stopped feeling that way. 

With that said, there are ways to embrace and honor a new special person:

  • It’s important not to compare a new relationship with the one you had with your wife. It will be a different love, as it should be. 
  • You will love this new person with a love that is unique to her. She deserves a love that’s based on who she is.
  • Love is like a candle – it doesn’t lose any power by lighting another. If you have more than one child, you know that loving one still permits you to love another. It’s the same thing as having multiple friends. This principle applies to a new love in your life – it will not change the love you had before.

Where are you in your widower journey? Are you finding it tricky to honor the past and the future at the same time? Do you have questions about dating? I’d love to hear from you.


Coach Christine

Giving Support Grief/Dispair Loneliness

WSN – Friends Seemingly Lost


WSN-MO: The Perfect Catch

A few minutes with Dating and Relationship Coach, Christine Baumgartner

Friends Seemingly Lost

Among the many devastating changes that come with widowhood, one that often catches people entirely by surprise is the pulling away of one or more close friends.

Most married couples have a few (or many) friends who are also couples. The relationship between couples may involve:

· Going to dinner with each other regularly.

· Belonging to the same organizations.

· Doing things together with each other’s children.

· Even going on vacation with each other.

Perhaps this situation sounds familiar to you. There were friendship connections you’d had for years. And when your spouse died, some of these friends pulled away, and you don’t see them as often (or at all).

Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence. And, it ends up feeling like “insult added to injury” because these people could have been part of your support as you go through grief. They would be the perfect people with whom to share memories of your late spouse.

I’ve heard a variety of reasons for this kind of pulling away:

· The friends don’t know what to say. I’ve heard many people (who haven’t lost a loved one) say they’re afraid to talk to the widower about their loved one. They fear it will make you feel worse. What these friends don’t know is – if what they say is from their heart it will always be comforting, and that we who have been widowed usually can’t feel any worse by talking about our departed loved one.

· There’s a chance that the same-sex spouse may be worried their spouse might be interested in having a relationship with you. I realize this is their problem and doesn’t have anything to do with you. However, because it really does happen sometimes, I wanted to include it in this list.

· The friends don’t know how to handle your sadness. They want to move on with their life and feel happy again. Being around those of us who have been widowed may seem like a downer to them. The truth is – you may long to feel better as well, but that’s just not possible for quite a while because you’re the one whose spouse has died.

Hopefully, some of your longtime friends will stay in your life. This would be optimum. But if you start finding they aren’t as available, it’s helpful to find new friends. I realize there truly isn’t a substitute for longtime friends. However, making new friends will help you create an important new support system.

One of the places to begin, if you’re new to your grief journey, is to join a grief group. A well-respected national organization is I know that quite a few people have made friendships (and some have even found love) while attending their meetings.

Another group to explore, especially if you’re a little farther along in your journey, is You’ll find a wide variety of people participating in exciting activities. Look for something you already enjoy or would like to learn and attend at least three times to confirm whether or not you enjoy the events and the people attending.

Being proactive about spending time with old and/or new friends can be very helpful in your mental and emotional healing. I know this, not only through the stories of my clients but in my personal experience of widowhood as well.

Let me know if some of these ideas end up working for you. And, if you have suggestions to add, I’d love to hear about them.

Christine Baumgartner Dating and Relationship Coach The Perfect Catch

WSN-MO: A FEW IMPORTANT POINTS. 1. The services offered by Christine, herself a widow, does not include “dating or matchmaking services.” 2. WSN-MO remains a private “Men Only” page. As such, Christine does not have direct access to WSN-MO’s Facebook page. All postings will be facilitated through WSN-MO. 3. WSN-MO members can ask questions of Christine (even anonymously via private message to me) on our Facebook page which I will then forward to her. You can also send questions to me at Following, I will then post her responses. 4. WSN-MO members who wish to contact Christine directly are always free to do so c/o her website

Look for Christine’s advice every other Thursday.

Children Family Giving Support

Fun Activities to DO with Your Grandchildren


Grieving and Thanksgiving 2018

With the approach of Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think back to Thanksgiving 2012, my very first holiday following my husband’s sudden death. The grief fog was still very thick. Numbness created a comforting cushion around my body and emotions. 

My husband had died in August. By the time November arrived, the loving family and friends who had gathered around me the first couple months had returned to their normal lives and I was on my own. The “dreaded firsts” were upon me, and I knew Thanksgiving was only the beginning.

Some wonderful friends invited me to their family Thanksgiving dinner that year. I’d spent many holidays with them when I was single, so this felt safe and comfortable. But I could still feel the enormity of this outing, if for no other reason, it was a solo drive (I’d had company on most of my drives since August).

My husband had loved to cook. He cooked for me, his kids, his friends, and the neighbors. Thinking about what to serve, shopping for the food, and preparing the meal brought him lots of joy. I was the sous chef, the audience, and the enthusiastic eater. So, each of our Thanksgivings together had been quite the event. Since his death, I dreaded grocery shopping because I never knew which aisle would bring me to tears from the memories of our being there together.

One thing he didn’t do was bake. He had a favorite German bakery that made our special occasion cakes. He also loved Marie Callender pies. As I sorted through household things after his death, I found quite an accumulation of Marie Callender pie tins.

I realized there was a Marie Callender’s restaurant close to my Thanksgiving destination, so I decided to turn in the stack of empty tins on the drive to my friend’s house. It would be good to get them out of the house (this felt like a manageable small step) and I would also get back the deposit money. 

So, I left the house early, and drove to the shopping center.

As I approached the restaurant I noticed a long line of people that stretched half-way around the building. This puzzled me, but I didn’t give it a lot of thought (it truly didn’t penetrate the grief fog). 

When I got to the restaurant door, I was stopped by a tall man (he literally blocked me). He asked what I needed. I looked up at him and said, “I’m returning my pie tins.”

I watch his expression turn into a huge question mark as he said, “Okay, come in and stand over by the counter.” Then he told a woman behind the counter I was returning my tins and went back to the front door. 

While standing there waiting, I noticed (through my fog) that the restaurant certainly had a lot of customers today. I also noticed that the employees behind the counter were racing around gathering up lots of boxes and customers were walking out with large bags full of stuff. Boxes of pies. Boxes of food. I’m not sure how long I stood there. I do know that it was long enough for some of the fog to finally lift and I had the realization, “Oh, it’s Thanksgiving and people are picking up their dinners and desserts!” 

What a revelation! Outside of my grief-focused self, the rest of the world was still doing its ordinary holiday routines. It was all around me, and I hadn’t been able to connect the dots.

Soon after this, the woman behind the counter asked me how she could help me and I said, “I’m returning my pie tins and just realized it’s Thanksgiving and this is probably a weird thing to do today.” She gave me a big smile and said I was definitely her easiest customer of the day. She took my tins and returned with my deposit money and wished me a happy Thanksgiving. 

As I left the restaurant I was thinking Tony would have gotten a kick out of my doing this. The thought brought both tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

When I told this story to friends later that day, we had quite a laugh. Then, at the Thanksgiving table, we shared things we were grateful for. I said I was grateful to have special friends who made me feel like family and were accepting of me and my fog. 

In hindsight, I can see that:

  • At one level, I knew it was Thanksgiving because it was causing me to sort through grief and memories and make decisions for myself. 
  • But at another level, my foggy self had failed to connect this thought with the world at large (grief does strange things like this). The world out there was still going through its holiday routines – including coming to Marie Callender’s and picking up pies! 

What about you? Are you reading this article because you too are struggling with grief? Let’s talk. Email me at

Emotional Suppression Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward




When widows and widowers try to move forward with life, a multitude of feelings can suddenly make themselves known. These feelings vary a lot, depending on personality and situation. Here are some examples. See if any of these apply to you.

Completely stuck

You have the best intentions, but repeatedly find yourself stuck. You don’t feel like there’s any hope. You don’t have any moments when it’s “not awful.” 

My heart goes out to you. It must be such a terrible feeling to have to keep living this way. When I talk with people in situations like this, I often recommend grief counseling. I’ll also ask (very gently) for them to imagine how their deceased spouse would feel seeing them in this hard place. What would he/she recommend?


You believe you should try never to feel bad. You don’t want to dwell on it. You put enormous effort into carrying this off, with the idea that it’s best to do things this way. 

Again, my heart goes out to you, because I know how hard this can be on your overall health. It also makes it difficult for others to be around you (especially those who loved him/her as well). Bottom line, everyone (including you) needs to be able to express their true and honest feelings. And, unfortunately, you can’t cut off an emotion (like sadness) and still keep the other feelings (like happy ones). You’ll find that your enjoyment of life eventually leaves. 

I tell my clients to “practice” trying out sadness for short periods. You could decide “I’m going to feel awful for two hours,” and go watch a movie that will make you cry for two hours. Or, you could set a timer for an hour and think about the happy things (that now make you sad) that you celebrated over the years. For example, your marriage ceremony, kids, milestones, anniversaries. Then set a timer and do something that you know will bring you pleasure for a specific amount of time. Go for a walk, call a friend or family member, play music (and dance or sing along), or watch a funny movie. 

These exercises are all about finding balance through the emotional journey in your widowhood.


You’ve taken steps forward, but then you have a bad afternoon. You ask yourself, why do I still feel bad? You start to doubt your previous growth and your future stability.

I tell my clients that this is pretty normal. After all, your spouse/partner died!

As an example, I’ll tell you about Bea (not her real name). Her husband of 70 years died a year ago. She has been able to rekindle her interest in life (hobbies, social events, children). But, last month, she was walking by their bedroom and was overwhelmed with sad feelings. She says to me, “Isn’t that weird?” I tell her it’s completely normal. After 70 years with someone and then one year without them, we’d all wonder if you weren’t sad now and then.

I do tell people to pay attention to these periods of sadness. How often do they occur (once a day, twice a week)? How long does each one last? Is it affecting your overall quality of life? You can review this with a trusted friend. Together you can decide if (and when) you might need some outside help.

Handling memories.

Are you someone who is wondering about memories? How to “bring them with you” without them becoming a ball and chain that drags you down? Doing this can make you feel like you’re trying to move forward with a big weight. But it doesn’t have to be a big weight.

A couple of examples from friends and clients:

  • A widow and widower who have now become a couple just moved into a new house. On their fireplace mantle is the urn of her deceased husband and an urn of his deceased wife.
  • A widower who has a special “memory” table in his house. It contains her urn, pictures of her, and mementos of their life together. It means a lot to him. He asked, “Do I have to put this away when I start dating?” My answer: Only put your physical memories away when you’re ready. Also, when you find the right person for you, having those memories on your table won’t matter to them at all. 

Taking personal inventory.

Did you find descriptions of yourself as you read this? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Hopefully, you now realize what a wide range of feelings shows up in widowhood. And that staying aware of how you’re handling your emotions is one of the best ways to ensure you’ll have a high quality of life. 

Loneliness Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward

Lifeboat Supplies


It’s important to have a ‘lifeboat’ prepared for those hard times.

In a recent post, I talked about how I like to visualize my mood as a buoy in the sea. There have been times in my life when ocean waves would wash over my buoy, but then it would always pop back up. When my husband died, my buoy went complete under the water and when it finally came up again, it was listing on its side. 

I’ve talked to lots of folks who use ocean imagery to describe their emotions. People talk about huge, scary waves breaking over them as they stand in the surf. Or how they’re feeling lost at sea, and desperate for some kind of lifeboat.

We all have hard things happen in our lives. How do we keep from drowning?

First of all, let’s talk about life triggers that can cause the waves to come. For example:

  • Getting fired.
  • Breaking up with a significant other.
  • Death of a family member or friend.

The overwhelm from the waves is particularly hard when we’re vulnerable. For example:

  • In the middle of the night.
  • When we’re alone (and lonely).
  • After some kind of crisis happens in our day (doesn’t even have to be large).

I’ve learned by experience that, when I’m doing well, that’s the time to prepare my lifeboat (or repair my buoy). Then, it will be ready when the stormy seas arrive.

People ask me, “What should I do to prepare my lifeboat?” Here are some of the suggestions I’ve given over the years:

  1. Call a trusted friend.
  2. Call your therapist/sponsor
  3. Go for a walk.
  4. Take a bath.
  5. Meditate.
  6. Go to bed early.
  7. Cry.
  8. Watch a movie (happy, funny, sad, intriguing, suspenseful – depending on what works best for your need).

These are the lifeboat supplies I’ve used and suggested to my clients. I hope they’re helpful for you too. I’d also love to hear what supplies you’ve put in your lifeboat.